Qualifying for Olympics at young age proves Izzah's potential, says Azizulhasni

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian track cycling great Azizulhasni Awang wants to see up-and-coming Izzah Izzati Asri achieve even more than he has in the sport.

Azizulhasni, whose nickname is the Pocket Rocketman, said he saw many similarities between himself and Izzah, who turns 21 in September.

The latter, who stands at a diminutive 1.52m tall, has shown glimpses of the explosiveness and fighting spirit that Azizulhasni is famous for.

Izzah, Azizulhasni and Shah Firdaus Sahrom are the only Malaysian track riders who have qualified for the Paris Olympics on July 26 to Aug 11.

"Izzah has the potential to go far in the sport. I have seen her unique talent and the different spirit that she has from an early stage," said Azizulhasni recently.

"Some said her small size would make it difficult for her to make it in the sport. I am grateful that she was able to get into the national programme.

"Our story at the start is almost the same. We are both from kampung (villages) and are smaller than normal athletes.

"Izzah's desire to succeed has allowed her to continue to improve her performances and chase success.

"For example, she was able to create history and win gold at the Asian Track Cycling Championships (New Delhi).

"Many people had placed their hopes on other young riders to qualify for the Olympics, (instead) Izzah surprised everyone and qualified at the age of 21.

"To qualify for the Olympics at such a young age is a huge achievement and shows the potential she has. Cycling has one of the most complicated qualifying processes for the Olympics.

"I qualified for the Olympics at the age of 20 (Beijing 2008) and see where I am today.

"I hope Izzah will be able to follow in my footsteps and hopefully, we will be able to do even better."

Izzah won two golds, one silver and one bronze in New Delhi in February, which boosted her hopes of qualifying for Paris.

She was able to finish eighth in the keirin at the Milton, Canada round of the UCI Nations Cup recently, which secured her a ticket to Paris.

National head coach John Beasley has stressed that Izzah is being groomed for the 2028 Los Angeles games and does not expect her to challenge for medals in Paris.

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